The Wil Myers story (part 4) Moving past 2011 and becoming part of Baseball’s Odd Couple
The 2011 season was a tough year for Myers and after the season the Royals told Myers he could stay home if he wanted. But, he knew he had to finish the year on a positive note so, after skipping instructs in Surprise he went to play in the Arizona Fall League where he had an excellent season.
Myers â€œThe slump in 2011 had nothing to do with my leg. I wanted to go to Arizona because I wanted to stay in the routine of playing. I needed to stick to that strict routine to find my rhythm. The game wasnâ€™t hard but it was becoming miserable for me. It was a hard time in my life. Baseball was always easy and now it was a job. I hated what I was doing on the field and going to Arizona was the best thing for me. I had to reverse the failure. Before I left for the AFL I came home, hit the weight room and worked out with Mo Blakeney (former Expos minor leagues 1995-1998) at his hitting factory. I have worked with Mo since I was 13 or 14 and he told me my swing wasnâ€™t wrong. It was all my confidence. I had to get that back and get it in my head I was the best. I donâ€™t express that to anyone but I have to feel it. I have to feel itâ€¦being the best is the only way I can think in my life.â€
I was told after the great season that Zack Greinke had in 2009 by a Royalsâ€™ executive that the thing he liked most about Myers was that he did not care if Zack Greinke was on the mound or Tom Smith. I shared this with Wil and he laughed and said. â€œIn my head I think every pitcher has no reason to throw to me. I think I can hit a home run off every pitcher. After the 2011 season I knew confidence is the key for me. I donâ€™t want to come across as arrogant or for people to think I am bragging but confidence is crucial.â€Â
An interesting note was Wil telling me he tries to stay away from â€œYesâ€ people. He doesnâ€™t want people feeding his ego with praise. Again, I think he knows what drives him and he stays away from the positive and negative.
Terry Evans is a 30-year-old veteran who has played 20 games in the big leagues over 3 seasons with the Cardinals and Angels. He does not seem like a guy that a hot-shot 21-year-old super prospect would be friends with. But, in 2012 they became Omahaâ€™s version of the Odd Couple.
Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg said â€œI donâ€™t think any of us in the organization knew what a great guy Evans was when we signed him. He was like a big brother to Wil and it made for a really good situation for us. We never asked Terry to shadow Wil and he did it on his own. We learned about it and obviously it worked out well.â€
Terry Evans: â€œIn spring training my locker was right next to him. I had heard about him as I entered the organization (prior to 2012) there was a lot of talk about who he was, but I wanted to see what he was like for on my own. I know that without ever seeing him play before I watched him hit and the way the ball came off his bat it was different. It jumped off his bat with his quick hands. His fly balls got a lot of air. As games started I watched him having fun. His approach was to play the game hard but he had fun. It almost came across like nothing bothered him. But, I know that confidence will help him going forward.Â
As the organizational rosters were being filled out to begin 2012 Evans knew he was headed to play AA ball for the Naturals.
â€œI knew we were both going to AA and I just told him we were going to be roommates on the road. He was like alright, thatâ€™s fine. Our first night we did not know each other well but we ended up talking for 3 and a half hours. I told him of my life, my entire roller coaster career through my testimonial. I told him how the first half of my career was a mess and how strong my faith with Jesus came over me and gave me hope. I told him how I took baseball off the platform and put Jesus on it when I was 24. I told him how, before that I partied a lot and took my career was in trouble. I told him how I would be crushed if I had a bad night and a 0-4 would become a 0-10. I could not deal with failure because baseball meant too much. I finally realized baseball was just a game and what was more important was Jesus. It changed my whole perspective and I learned that stats donâ€™t tell the story. I was happier and began to play the game right. I know Wil was hearing me and he asked a lot of questions. He knew I had played in the big leagues but that is not what he was interested in. He wanted to know me and my story.Â
Â Wil has a desire to follow Jesus and grow in that relationship. He knows he is not perfect and I know his hope and faith are most important to him. I think his eyes were really opened about life this year. He is very open about his life and at 21 he has learned from his mistakes. He is very mature for his age which will surprise people because he is goofy. But, he is a smart kid and other than having a nice necklace I would not know he had money. He is very generous with his time and a great guy to be around.Â
Ben Theriot and Evans both talk about how much time Myers gives to fans. Theriot talked about how Myers was almost always the one volunteering to sit at a table and greet fans and sign autographs. Evans says Wil is always flipping baseballs to kids. Maybe Myers remembers how much that ball meant to him from the Braves player at the one big league game he went to.
As a player Evans has played with some big time prospects and considers former super prospect Brandon Wood to be his best friend. He says this about Myers based on past experiences â€œI think the one thing that sticks out about Wil is he trusts his ability. I think sometimes prospects can listen too much especially when they struggle and they lose a sense of self. Wil will take advice and he will listen but he balances that with his ability and God-given talent. He knows what he needs to succeed. So, he will listen but he wonâ€™t compromise. At 21 he has a great balance to his game. He is so level-headedâ€¦ at 21, I canâ€™t relate because I didnâ€™t have that. I think he will continue to grow and when he gets to the big leagues he wonâ€™t be overwhelmed. He is ready and his preparation on and off the field is much older than that of a 21-year-old. In 5 years I expect people to see the real side of Myers and I know they will like him a lot. He will be a great player and fans will like him. I know it is tough for KC to compete with other markets but Wil loves this organization. He doesnâ€™t talk bad about them and it would be real easy for him to be bitter. He doesnâ€™t buy into any negativity.â€Â
Evans added â€œI know the fans of Kansas City will like his simple approach. He enjoys fishing and it doesnâ€™t take much for him to be entertained. I do look forward to seeing him in a suit though. I have never seen him in one. I also see him as a very charitable guy with his time and money. He is always asking what he can give his time to. I donâ€™t think you can ask for a better guy for the organization and your community.â€Â
*Evans retired from baseball after the season and has joined UPI a baseball ministry group that was started by former big leaguers Tony Graffanino, Mickey Weston, and former Brewers minor leaguer Brian Hommel.
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